How To Love Yourself
Updated: Mar 2
Caitlin Weese LCSW-C, 200 RYT
Self Love and Complex PTSD (CPTSD)
Loving yourself is a crucial aspect of leading a healthy and fulfilling life. Yet, complex PTSD can lead us to struggle with self-love and low self-esteem. Actually, I feel its one of the largest symptoms of it. The good news is that you're not alone and self-love is a skill that can be developed with time and effort. In this blog post, I’ll explore ways to help you grow your love for, and improve your relationship with, yourself.
What Exactly Does that Look Like?
Self-care is the practice of taking care of your physical, mental, spiritual, psychological, professional and emotional well-being. It can include activities such as exercise, meditation, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. But it doesn’t have to be all face masks and bubble baths. Self-care can also look like limiting contact with toxic people or setting boundaries. By taking care of your basic needs, you’re showing yourself that you’re worth the time and effort. Take some time and brainstorm what this might look like for you and jot down a list of some action items.
Surrounding Yourself with Healthy People:
The people you surround yourself with can have a significant impact on how you feel about yourself. If you’re constantly surrounded by people who are negative, self-critical, or not supportive, it’s likely to affect your self-esteem and the behaviors you engage in. On the other hand, if you’re surrounded by people who are positive, supportive, and encouraging, it can help you to learn by observation and feel better about yourself.
Respecting Your Own Boundaries:
As I talked about last week, respect is necessary for love to exist and healthy relationships to be had. The same can be said for your relationship with yourself. Therefore, respecting your own boundaries is one of the most important pieces to loving yourself. Think of it this way if you had a friend who never respected your needs and pushed your limits you probably wouldn't have much love for them. The same is true for you! This means no more saying "yes" when you mean "no" and spending time with people who make you feel uncomfortable.
Questioning Your Thoughts About Yourself:
When we are experiencing a lack of self-love chances are we are suffering from low self-esteem and a distorted self-image. Part of the journey back to loving yourself is learning to question and adjust this view of yourself. While we all have struggles and flaws, we also have strengths and unique qualities. Questioning your automatic thoughts is a great way to do this. When you notice a feeling of self-hatred or dislike come up, notice the thought prompting it. Maybe it’s “I’m worthless” or “I’m weak.” Ask yourself these questions: Who taught me to think this about myself? Are they a reliable source? How might someone else view me? If I were my friend would I think this? Unpacking these thoughts can help you to shift your self view and develop self-love.
Practice Positive (or Neutral) Self-Talk
The way you talk to yourself can have a significant impact on how you feel about yourself. If you habitually criticize and critique yourself, you’re likely to feel bad about yourself. On the other hand, if you practice positive self-talk, you’re more likely to feel better about yourself. Try to focus on the positive things about yourself and speak to yourself in a kind and encouraging way. It can feel disingenuous to do this at first and it might be more appropriate to focus on speaking to yourself in more of a neutral way. This might look like saying, “I have flaws like all humans but I also have strengths.” Take some time to practice this and see what works for you.
Being kind to yourself is a crucial aspect of self-love. Again if you had a friend who wasn't compassionate toward you, you probably wouldn't feel very safe being human around them. Instead of criticizing yourself, focus on treating yourself with kindness and compassion. This means being gentle with yourself when you make mistakes, and being patient with yourself as you heal from the past. One of my favorite resources to help clients practice self-compassion is the following meditation led by Tara Brach. Check it out and let me know what you think!
Learning to Forgive Yourself
Forgiving yourself is a crucial aspect of self-love, it allows us to accept ourselves in our human and fallible form. I'm a firm believer that everyone is doing the best they can at any particular moment. The things we beat ourselves up for, especially if we have complex PTSD are usually done out of a fear and an attempt to keep ourselves safe. Take struggling with substance use, for example, we might beat ourselves up for drinking too much. But if we were to really look at it you likely drink as a way to feel better or avoid painful feelings. Even though it might not serve you now, it served you then. When you forgive yourself, you’re able to acknowledge you were doing your best, let go of any negative feelings or thoughts about yourself AND work towards different outcomes in the future. Releasing this shame can help you feel more positive and confident about yourself, which can lead to a better relationship with yourself.
Learning to love yourself is a process and it will take time.
It takes time to shift our behaviors and thinking. You've likely spent your entire life struggling with self-hatred and disgust so its going to take time to undo this. As you take these steps be patient with yourself and remember the goal: to love yourself, beating yourself up won't get you there any faster.